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Puyo Puyo Sun64 Review

Publisher - Compile
Developer - Compile
Platform - N64
Type - Puzzle
Score - 7/10

The second puzzle game has hit the N64 and itís another keeper. Puyo Puyo Sun64, programmed by the Japanese developer Compile, follows in the tradition of the popular "Puyo Puyo game series"for both good and bad.

The concept is simple. Like in Kirby's Avalanche (which was a U.S. conversion of a Puyo game), blocks in the form of double "slime balls" with eyes fall from the top and have to be lined up to form batches of four. As soon as four or more pieces touch each other, they pop and take adjacent special blocks with them and send them over to the other player in the form of garbage blocks. As in most puzzle games, these can then only be destroyed by popping slime pieces right next to them. The so-called "sun blocks" (hence the title: Puyo Puyo Sun) are similar to garbage blocks, but can be used to unleash powerful combos and send your opponent even more garbage.

Gameplay: Addictive. Once you start playing, itís very easy to see why the Puyo series is so popular in Japan. The simple concept and rules make it easy to get into the game, but itís not until later that you start to discover strategies and techniques to pull off combos and chain reactions that can totally mess up your adversary. There is nothing more satisfying than sending a bunch of stones over to the other player (or the computer) while your character squeals taunts and one-liners in Japanese.

On top of an excellent two player mode, there are tons of cool options and modes to keep you interested for a long time. For example, the one player mode pits you against a variety of anime enemies (such as a two-legged fish, or an elephant) and reveals more about the characters in little (cheesy) animated sequences in between the fights. You can also try your luck in a cool puzzle mode, where you have to get rid of a set amount of "puyos" in a certain number of moves, or take on up to 15 players in a tournament (two players play at the same time).

Graphics: As expected, Puyo Puyoís graphics are not up to par with other N64 titles. If youíve played 16-bit puzzle games, you know what to expect. Flat, colorful images, with lots of hand-drawn Japanese anime figures and some basic animation that consists of rotations or blinking eyes. Why on Earth is this game not in hi-res? It doesnít look bad, but itís nowhere near Tetrisphere or Wetrix.

Sound: Basic "happy" midi tunes that despite steel drums and ethno percussion samples retain a very Japanese feel. Again -- not bad, but certainly uninspired. The sound effects are the usual bag of boinks and crash sounds, enhanced by the occasional girlie scream. There are quite a lot of samples in here, as all appearing characters have distinct voices and taunt each other whenever they send "presents" over to the other player. The samples (all in Japanese) are nice and clear, and are often funny puns on the respective characterís name or apperance.

Control: The digital pad allows accurate placement of the pieces (left, right, and down to drop) and you can use any button to turn them. Puyo Puyo also supports the Rumble Pak, which shakes your controller whenever your opponent drops garbage blocks on you.

Options: Puyo Puyo Sun comes complete with plenty of options, three different difficulty settings, handicaps, customizable controller setups, a choice of slime explosions, and 16 playable characters. If you donít know any Japanese, you will probably never figure out all the menus and play modes, so you might want to wait until a US publisher picks up the game.

Overall: All in all, Puyo Puyo is far from being a ground-breaking title, but given the shortage of puzzle games on the N64 weíd really love to see the game to be released over here. Compile played it pretty safe with the graphics and sound -- the N64ís graphics chip could easily leave the console and go shopping while running these archaic 2D graphics. There are also some issues with the difficulty of the game (some of the combos are way to powerful), but in the end itís easy to forget these flaws and enjoy the classic puzzle gameplay. Itís addictive, fun, and very easy to learn.

Unfortunately, Puyo Puyo Sun64 still doesnít have a publisher outside Japan yet, but with some funny voice acting or a cartoon license, the game could become a popular alternative to Tetrisphere over here, too.